Pro Football Talk is making its way around each NFL team, pointing out their draft needs, and predicting what position(s) that team will focus on.
Michael David Smith points to the Lions offensive line, first. The Lions lost left tackle Jeff Backus to retirement, right tackle Gosder Cherilus to the Indianapolis Colts, and cut right guard Stephen Peterman. With the draft looming, Smith believes the Lions will target a left tackle of the future.
Fortunately for Detroit, this is a good year to have a Top 5 pick if you need to rebuild your offensive line. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M played very well against high-quality competition while protecting Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel as the Aggies’ starting left tackle, and he could definitely step in and start right away as the man to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side this year. Central Michigan’sEric Fisher didn’t play against the same kind of competition that Joeckel did, but some draft analysts think Fisher is an even better left tackle than Joeckel. And Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, though less experienced at the position and perhaps in more need of seasoning in the NFL, may have the most upside of any of the tackles in this year’s draft. … It’s unlikely that the Lions will go for a guard instead of a left tackle at No. 5, but it’s very likely that the Lions will get a starter on their offensive line in the first round of the draft.
While the Lions our short on experienced talent at tackle, they still have three young offensive tackles on the roster they can turn to. When the Lions re-signed offensive tackle Corey Hilliard in early March, he was told he will have a chance to start this upcoming season. With former fourth round pick Jason Fox, and last years 23rd overall pick Riley Reiff also on the roster, Mayhew will have a tough choice on his hands come draft day.
Smith then goes to another Lion draft need: this time it’s cornerback. They’ve already addressed their safety position by signing Glover Quin from the Houston Texans and re-signing Louis Delmas. They also retained their No. 1 cornerback Chris Houston, ensuring he will be a Lion in the future. The question, though, is what they’ll do on the opposite side of Houston.
In any event, cornerback is a position the Lions need to improve. Last year they drafted cornerbacks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds. This year it will be a major surprise if they don’t draft at least one cornerback, and probably earlier in the draft than they did last year.
This is the most logical conclusion. If the Lions are to draft a corner, it will most likely be in the first two rounds. With three young cornerbacks waiting in the wings, there’s no reason to bring another project cornerback in the late rounds.
Smith then points out the Lions need at defensive end. To me, this is the Lions most pressing need. Jim Schwartz prides his defense off his front four. He made a point to be at Kyle Vanden Bosch’s front door at the beginning of free agency, and brought in Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams, Lawrence Jackson, and Willie Young among others through the draft, free agency, and trades. As of today, this is undoubtedly the weakest unit on the football team.
A good pass rusher like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah or Oregon’s Dion Jordan could be tempting at No. 5. However, a defensive end will probably not be as tempting as one of the cornerbacks or offensive tackles at No. 5, and the Lions are more likely to address their need at defensive end later in the draft. If a player like Florida State’s Bjoern Werner is still around with the Lions’ second-round pick, No. 36 overall, he could make a lot of sense there.
Last, and sureley not least, Smith points out the need for a big bodied wide receiver opposite of Calvin Johnson. When the team released Titus Young, and had two of their top four receivers coming off major leg problems, this became an easy choice.
So while the Lions won’t draft a receiver at No. 5 overall, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them try to address the position later in the draft. A receiver like USC’s Robert Woods or Baylor’s Terrance Williams could tempt the Lions.